The Primary Story That’ll Get No Coverage

Yesterday was one of the last primary Tuesdays in the 2010 cycle. And, in Alaska, Incumbent GOP Senator Lisa Murkowsky is losing by a slim margin to Joe Miller, supported by the infamous Tea Party Express out of Sal Russo’s political business/shop in Sacramento, California.

Alaska ‘Neath The Smog

But that’s not the juicy story. The juicy story has never gained national traction, although it really ought to. The Juicy Story was the ongoing tale of Ballot Measure 1, the “Anti-Corruption” measure.

It lost by a decisive margin, about 62.5% to 37.5% — which is why it will fade from public consciousness. Did you know, for instance, that earlier in August, the investigating body from the State of Alaska proposed a $339,650 fine on Alaskans for Open Government, the backing organization for Clean Team Alaska who officially sponsored Ballot Measure 1? That that fine was levied because Americans for Limited Government, the organization BACKING that backing organization, refused to reveal who was backing THEM?

That the entire gang who’d put the measure on Alaska’s August primary ballot walked away from over $800,00 spent on the ballot measure, RATHER than reveal who had actually provided that money? Tell me that this story doesn’t deserve wider attention.

Ironic, of course that the Koch Brothers story broke this week. I had intended to comment*, but there was no point until the Alaskan Primary was over.  But we’ll get there by and by.

[* I can say, at this point in the ‘narrative’ that I gladly welcome the New Yorker, MSNBC et al. to the last four years of this blog. Hope that they can catch up quicker now. The Rachel Maddow Show has done particularly praiseworthy coverage of this story, notwithstanding.]

Meantime, well, listen to this from the Juneau Empire [emphasis added]:

My turn: Why Ballot Measure No. 1 is bad news for everyone

By Rosemary Hagevig | Juneau Empire
[Juneau, Alaska, the state capitol]
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

… Finally, I just have a huge aversion to instigators from outside of Alaska trying to manipulate the voters of our state, simply because they think they can. The real money behind this Initiative comes from a gentleman named Howie Rich who targets geographically larger states with smaller more dispersed populations where a statute or constitutional amendment can be passed through a ballot initiative. These thinly populated states have relatively low thresholds to qualify for the ballot – the fewer signatures necessary, the less it costs to pay for the signatures to be collected. The news media in those states also charge lower rates for advertising, reducing those costs for a campaign.

Examples of recent activity [2008] include Montana, Colorado and South Dakota. It failed in Montana and South Dakota ($1.2 million was spent to educate voters to defeat it) and it passed in Colorado and subsequently was found to be unconstitutional. So in a nutshell, this is the issue.

A more recent development is the national group identified above has pulled financial support from the election effort because of the APOC ruling that they must more specifically identify contributors. And this is the group that purports to be looking for more transparency in government! […]

Hagevig is a former member of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. She currently lives in Douglas.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll recognize the name. If not, catch up.

Yeah. Howie Rich again, and quietly proving yet again a point I’ve been trying to get the media to understand since 2006: Howie Rich is the sock puppet, he is NOT the invisible hand.

If it WERE actually Howie Rich, he wouldn’t have any problem identifying the $800,000-plus that his organization (self-identified as having been founded in 2006) dished out to get their “anti-corruption” measure on the Alaska ballot for a sparsely-attended primary in an off-year election. (These guys work all the angles.)

But Alaskans rejected the measure about two to one, without any advertising from “Alaskans for Open Government” who closed shop in June, and claim to have $197.83 in their bank account to pay the $339,650 fine levied against them. That will continue as a local Alaskan story, of course, just as Howie Rich’s southern invasion of South Carolina continues, blatantly from 2006 to the present day.

I have personally tracked his organization in these states: Oregon, California, Washington state, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, Alaska, Missouri, Michigan, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Dakota, Colorado, and of course South Carolina. (I may have left a few out.)

And, in virtually every case, it’s a “local” story, that never makes it much beyond the state borders. In 2006, the Center for Public Integrity found that virtually all of Americans for Limited Government’s funding came from THREE donors. Donors who — as Alaska indicates — would rather walk away from a million bucks than reveal their identities.

Oh, they have a standard response, over at ALG, which is that the donors might face repercussions or consequences, but that only underlines just how fundamentally weird and anti-democratic this all is.

Here, from the Anchorage Daily News column by

Measure 1 strips rights, doesn’t fight corruption

by Paul Jenkins
Published: August 21st, 2010 10:01 PM
Last Modified: August 21st, 2010 10:01 PM

… “Exploiting the public’s disdain for politics and distrust of politicians, it is now the most uncontrolled and unexamined arena of power politics,” [Washington Post columnist David Broder] writes of initiatives. “It has given the United States something that seems unthinkable — not a government of laws but laws without government.”

The Swiss exported the initiative process to us more than 100 years ago.

It was championed by populists fretting about big money in politics. It since has gone on “to become the favored tool of millionaires and interest groups that use their wealth to achieve their own policy goals,” Broder writes.

In Alaska, almost nobody likes Ballot Measure 1. From unions to government to chambers of commerce to politicians to an almost endless list of businesses and organizations, it draws the skunk eye.

The more you know about the measure, the harder it is to like. If the idea is to strip of their constitutional rights holders of city and state contracts — and, remarkably, their families, too — its backers did a bang-up job. If it is aimed at fighting corruption, it is a miserable failure.

[at the end, the ADN notes: Paul Jenkins is editor of the Anchorage Daily Planet. The Planet’s parent corporation has a contractual relationship with forces opposing Ballot Measure 1.]

Well, at least SOMEbody’s being transparent.

This is the Second Coming of this initiative funded by shadowy backers. In 2008, virtually identical ALG-funded initiatives were on the ballot in Colorado, Montana and South Dakota. Two states voted it down, outright, and, while it passed in Colorado, it was invalidated by the Colorado Supreme Court. In 2006, they tried several initiatives in several (mostly) Western states and only won in Arizona. They (or, rather, a NEW shadowy organization called “SOS Ballot, Inc.” incorporated in Nevada) have a “Secret ballot” union bashing initiative on the Arizona ballot in Novemeber this year, too. According to Ballotpedia (Run by the wife of the former ALG Chairman, Eric O’Keefe, now of the Sam Adams Alliance of Tea Party fame):

  • Like similar initiatives in other states, this proposed amendment was sponsored by SOS Ballot, Inc. This group was a 501(c)(4) organization that, according to its national website, was “dedicated to educating the American public on the continued need for a secret ballot wherever state or federal law requires elections.”
  • Clint Bolick, member of think-tank and Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, was a board member for Save Our Secret Ballots. Bolick wrote the language for the proposed constitutional amendment.

Well, they ought to know. Clint Bolick was connected to the 2006 Arizona measure that ALG was running, as I noted then:

Clint Bolick, who was trotted out this week wearing another hat to bolster the Arizona sound bites of [Howard Rich operative] Lori Klein on the [Americans for Limited Government-sponsored and funded] AZ Prop. 207 “takings” measure

It probably would be wise to mention that long-time Howie Rich political ally/employee Paul Jacob is on the “SOS Ballot, Inc.” Board, along with Pat Toomey, now the GOP candidate for US Senator in Pennsylvania. From their “About” page:

  • Paul Jacob, Citizens in Charge, Founder US Term Limits
  • Pat Toomey, President, Club for Growth

Just to close the circle: U.S. Term Limits is now run by Howard Rich. Howard Rich is on the board of Club for Growth (technically Toomey is his former employee). And, to save a thousand words, here is a picture:

Click on the map for the interactive webpage.

David Koch and Howard Rich have sat together on the Cato Institute Board for many years, and Cato Institute head Ed Crane sits on the ALG board. Etcetera etcetera.

There are too many interconnections and wormholes here, but while I probably will get to them (some more) later, I have the Foster Friess series to finish up (You might remember Friess’ picture on the Goldwater Institute’s annual report, jawboning with George S. Will) and there are linkages there, too.

But to keep this clean, let me merely state my conclusion and then I’ve got other fish to fry. Or moose to shoot, or something.

What just happened in Alaska with Ballot Measure 1 is just the tip of the iceberg of a national story about the unscrupulous manipulation of our electoral system by shadowy billionaires in an intentionally opaque manner —  a manipulation which may well herald the death of representative democracy and the beginning of a long era hereditary oligarchy.

And I don’t think that a majority of us would vote for that, IF it were a national story. And the bankrollers are still at it until November. Alaska wasn’t the end, not just a local story, and should not vanish down the memory hole. It’s IMPORTANT goddam it!

Of course, if the $339,650 fine is levied against Alaskans for Open Government, their $197.83 will be the last cash that the State of Alaska will see. Americans for Limited Government will get off scot free (although “fined” $800k that they walked away from) and some new organization will spring up, perhaps with the same board members, and they can try it all over again. This cult of secrecy and mysterious shielding of donors has been ALG’s hallmark from the git-go.

And one doubts that this is the last time that Alaska will see them (albeit in a new 501(c)4 guise, as they’re doing with a Nevada  corporation subject to extreme secrecy and lack of disclosure requirements (which is why companies incorporate in Nevada) called “SOS Ballot, Inc.” Kind of like SOS Missouri, SOS Arizona, SOS Washington and SOS Michigan back in 2006.

Kind of like rock stars registering anonymously at hotels, they seem to stick with the same aliases, over and over again.

There’s more to Alaska than the Princess of Moosylvania.

by Hart Williams © 7-3-2010

Is any media there? Do any media care?


Bookmark and Share

About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.